Potassium is one of the seven essential macronutrients or minerals that should be taken daily, in relatively high amounts – at least 100mg per day.
Microminerals on the other hand, such as iron or zink, for example, are also very important, but they should be consumed in significantly smaller amounts.
Potassium is an electrolyte that is very important for the nervous system, and participates in the regulation of muscle contractions, along with sodium. The effect of this mineral on the muscles is especially important for the heart muscle, which is particularly sensitive to minerals.
The effect of potassium on cardiovascular health
As we have said, potassium is very important for heart health. Not only does it participate in the regulation of the proper heart rate, it “neutralizes” the negative effect of sodium in relation to high blood pressure. The greater the amount of potassium in the diet, the more sodium is excreted in the urine.
Potassium also helps balance fluids and minerals that pass in and out of cells, thus maintaining normal blood pressure. Also, it relaxes blood vessels, which also acts to lower blood pressure. People who eat a diet rich in potassium have a lower risk of ischemic stroke. This effect has not been established with supplementation.
The effect on bones and digestive health
A recently published study found a positive effect of potassium on bone health. Significantly reduced bone resorption processes (a process in which bones break down) have been found in a diet rich in potassium. This effect is thought to be due to reduced urinary calcium excretion with sufficient potassium intake from the diet.
According to experts, this would mean that the regulation of pH in the body is facilitated since in the body remains more available mineral content that would neutralize the acidic environment.
The link between potassium and kidney health
The kidneys are responsible for maintaining adequate potassium levels in the body. Thus, kidney function can very easily be the cause of a positive or negative effect on potassium levels in the body.
For example, if a patient has chronic kidney disease, he or she may have impaired ability to remove excess potassium from the blood, which may lead to hyperkalemia. Symptoms of hyperkalemia include tingling in the extremities, muscle weakness, and more severe forms of the condition that can lead to paralysis, arrhythmia, and even heart attack.
Symptoms of deficiency
It is much more common for people to be deficient in this mineral than to have it in excess. This condition is called hypokalemia and occurs when you don’t have enough potassium in your diet. It can lead to muscle weakness, persistent muscle cramps, and often quite painful. This is because, at normal levels, potassium prevents electrical signals in the body from being sent to the muscles too quickly.
Arrhythmia can also be a symptom of potassium deficiency, as in this condition the heart muscle cells can contract “earlier” than normal, which in turn results in an increased or decreased heart rate.
People who smoke regularly, consume large amounts of alcohol, take certain diuretic medications or have digestive disorders are at higher risk for hypokalemia.
Foods that are rich in potassium
There is a wide range of foods rich in this mineral, ie products with which we can regularly meet our needs for this mineral. At the same time, such products are healthy food, rich in other essential components. Therefore, supplementation is rarely necessary and should be used only in consultation with a physician.
Foods rich in potassium:
- Green leafy vegetable
- Fruits – oranges, apricots, bananas, tomatoes (tomato puree, ketchup, tomato juice), etc.
- Whole grains – wheat
- Quinoa seeds
- Root vegetables – carrots, potatoes
- Legumes – Peas, beans, soybeans
- Certain types of fish such as tuna
Daily recommended intake
Relevant medical institutions, such as the American National Academy of Medicine, recommend a daily intake of 4700mg of potassium for adults. These amounts would have the effect of reducing the sensitivity of salt ( sodium ), lowering blood pressure, and minimizing the risk of kidney stones.
A blood test can determine potassium levels, and those between 2.5 and 5.0 are considered normal. Levels above 6.0 are considered dangerous.